As it is Halloween, I think this is just the perfect word for the occasion.

This is truly a “phantastic” word. 😉 It’s an adjective that means characterized by or pertaining to rapid changes in light intensity and color or characterized by or pertaining to a dream-like blurring of real and imaginary elements. I think Salvador DalĂ­ embraced this concept quite masterfully in his paintings.



Derived from the noun phantasmagoria – a form of theatre that used a special lantern to project scary images such as skeletons, demons, and ghosts on walls – this word probably hasn’t seen the light of day since the 19th century. Nevertheless, it is still quite interesting to see what counted as entertainment nearly two centuries ago. 🙂

Want to read more about other uncommon words? 🙂 See the Interesting Words page.

Wiktionary – phantasmagoric
Wikipedia – Phantasmagoria



It’s been awhile since I’ve made fun of a German word, but I suppose it’s as good a time now as any to dig further into this gold mine. 😛

I think that, for the majority of English speakers, the word schadenfreude has long entered their vocabulary.

This word, from the similar German word Schadenfreude*, means something like the enjoyment derived from observing someone else’s misfortune. Anyone who’s ever seen TV shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos or Tosh.0 will know exactly what this word means.

*Etymology: Schaden (damage or harm) + Freude (joy)

Few will know, however, that Schadenfreude actually also has a polar opposite cousin: Fremdscham**.

Google Translate gives Fremdscham the definition in English as foreign Cham, but don’t you believe it for one second! This word actually means the embarrassment that one feels at watching someone else embarrass themselves. Complicated, right? And, I’ll have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever run into this situation before (not one that I recall anyway). How did it ever get turned into a word?

**Etymology: Fremd (foreign or unrelated) + Scham (shame)

You may also be interested to know that Fremdscham has further spawned a related verb: fremdschämen*** – to feel ashamed for someone else who has done something embarassing.

***Etymology: Fremd (foreign or unrelated) + schämen (to feel ashamed)

Those who are adventurous with their word compounds, however, should shy away from the combination of Scham (shame) + EntzĂźndung (inflammation). The resulting word will probably not mean what you think it should mean.

Want to read more about other uncommon words? 🙂 See the Interesting Words page.

Wiktionary – schadenfreude
Wiktionary – Schadenfreude
Wikipedia – Schadenfreude
Wiktionary – Fremdscham
Wiktionary – fremdschämen
Wiktionary – SchamentzĂźndung

HSK 1 3.0 (Android)

To download, please see the download page.
For the next version, see HSK 1 3.1.
For the previous version, see HSK 1 2.0.

This update has been in the works for awhile now, but I’ve only had a chance to finalize and upload it today. There are some significant upgrades in this version:
1. “How to Use” has been reorganized for easier reading.
2. Characters are now available in both traditional and simplified styles.
3. Quiz questions now have an extra “info” option.
4. Quizzes now save themselves as you go through questions.
5. Added a way to reset and start a new quiz.
6. Sizing differences have been resolved. All devices should now have a relatively similar user interface.
7. Various bugs were fixed.

For the previous version, see HSK 1 2.0.
For the next version, see HSK 1 3.1.
To download, please see the download page. I hope you enjoy it!